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Perjury

Date Updated: October 2012
Title: Administration of Justice
Offence: Perjury
Legislation: Perjury Act 1911 section 1
Mode of Trial: Indictable only  
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:  7 years' imprisonment (2 years for perjury in a statutory declaration)

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

See factors in main text under R v Archer

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

R v Archer [2003] 1 Cr. App. R (S) 86 is the only guideline case.

Factors to be considered include:

  • the number of offences
  • whether planned or spontaneous
  • whether they were persisted in
  • whether the lies told or fabrications embarked upon had any actual impact on the proceedings in question
  • whether the activities of the offender drew in others
  • the relationship between others drawn in and the offender
  • the whole course of conduct

Perjury is punishable as an offence whether it occurs in criminal or civil proceedings. It may sometimes be appropriate when gauging the harm occasioned by the offending to consider whether the proceedings were civil or criminal since the former characteristically involve only financial loss whereas in the latter an individual's liberty may be in jeopardy. However, this distinction is not conclusive. Perjury may be comparatively trivial in a criminal case or very serious in a civil one. Therefore, no absolute distinction can be drawn in terms of sentence level merely because the proceedings concerned were of a civil or a criminal nature.

See below for details of the case.    

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

Recent Decisions reported in Current Sentencing Practice at B8-1.3 divided into perjury in proceedings in magistrates' courts; perjury in civil proceedings; perjury in proceedings relating to serious crime.

R v Dunlop [2001] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 27. Tried twice for murder, jury failed to agree, discharged; written confession some years later, 6 years' imprisonment concurrent on both counts upheld. The punishment had to be commensurate with the gravity of the original offence and yet not be seen as a punishment for that original offence.

R v Archer [2003] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 86
Appellant was the plaintiff in libel proceedings arising from newspaper allegations that he had had sexual intercourse with a prostitue. Convicted following trial on four counts and sentenced as follows:-

  • Perverting the course of justice by procuring a false alibi - two years' imprisonment.
  • Perverting the course of justice by concealing the existence of a diary, providing his secretary with a blank diary and details to fill in, and using it as genuine - fours years' imprisonment.
  • Perjury by falsely swearing an affadavit about documents in his possession - three years' imprisonment.
  • Perjury that the diary was in existence and contained certain entries - four years' imprisonment.

All sentences to run concurrently.
Sentences upheld on appeal.

R v Cunningham [2007] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 61. Kidnapped by a gang, detained overnight, subjected to violence and made to contact his partner and demand money. At their trial he gave false evidence to the effect that he had not been kidnapped and that he had instigated the violence. His defence of duress was rejected. Four years' imprisonment upheld.

R v Adams [2004] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 15. Gave suporting evidence for a friend being tried for possession with intent. 18 months' imprisonment upheld.

R v Healey [1990] 12 Cr. App. R. (S) 297. Fine defaulter gave false evidence of means. 6 months' imprisonment upheld.

R v Hall [1982] 4 Cr. App. R. (S) 153. gave false alibi evidence for another in a magistrates' court trial. 3 months' imprisonment upheld

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